Key to Umbria: Spello

Three nunneries of Spello have their own pages in this website:

  1. San Giovanni Battista;

  2. Santa Maria di Vallegloria (including Santa Maria di Vallegloria Vecchia); and

  3. Santa Maria Maddalena.

Monastero della Povera Vita (15th century)

This institution, which was first documented in 1442, housed a community of female followers of Angelo Clareni, who formally followed the Rule of the Franciscan Third Order, under the spiritual guidance of the Clareni friars of Santa Caterina, Rapecchiano (east of Spello).   No other community of female Clareni is known in the Valle di Spoleto. 

In 1571, the Apostolic Visitor found the house too small for its 22 inhabitants and banned new entries.  Its subsequent decline was rapid, and the last sister died in 1628.  Its property passed to the Seminario San Felice.

Since 1970, the building has housed the Casa della Povera Gente, which was established here by a Parisian, Maddalena Löwit (known as Maddalena di Spello).

Santa Chiara (13th century)

This nuns of this nunnery in Via Giulia formally followed the Benedictine Rule, although they actually lived as Franciscan Tertiaries.  The oldest surviving documentary reference to it is relatively late, dating to 1350.  The nuns of SS Giacomo e Margherita (see below) moved here in 1464.  The merged community was suppressed in 1781, and the complex passed to the Ursuline Congregation.  This foundation closed in 1822.

Immaculate Virgin with saints (ca. 1700)

This panel from Santa Chiara, which is now in Santa Maria Maggiore, is attributed to Carlo Lamparelli.  It depicts the Immaculate Virgin with SS SS Agnes, Antony of Padua, Felix, Clare and a female saint.

SS Giacomo e Margherita (1258-9)

The Benedictine nunnery of SS Giacomo e Margherita (also known as the Monastero di Vallingegno) was constructed shortly after Pope Alexander IV had prohibited the building of new nunneries in Spello because this would prejudice the Poor Clares of Santa Maria Vallegloria.  The bishop of Nocera Umbra failed to follow his order to demolish the new foundation, and Pope Urban IV took it under papal protection in 1263.

The hermits of Santa Maria del Paradiso (below) moved here in 1325. 

SS Giacomo e Margherita was enclosed by the new town walls in 1360. 

The nuns moved to Santa Chiara (see above) in 1464, and SS Giacomo e Margherita fell into ruins.  Only scant vestiges survive, near the Torre di Santa Margherita in the medieval walls.  (This tower was damaged in the earthquake of 1997 and subsequently restored.  It now houses the Fondazione Sinisca, which exhibits the work of the contemporary photographer and sculptor, Mario Siniscalco.) 

Santa Maria del Paradiso (1296)

This small eremitical community  was formed on 30th June 1296, when Simone di Leonardo, il Rosso gave a property on his land outside Spello to four female penitents from the city.  The ladies initially followed the Augustinian rule, before transferring to the Poor Clares in 1325.  They nevertheless continued to undertake weaving and to work their land, selling some of their products in order to support the community.   However, they were compelled to move to SS Giacomo e Margherita (above) in 1325.

The nunnery was later adapted as a farm but is now abandoned.

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Nunneries of Spello

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